Clean Energy Future LLC has stopped efforts to build a third natural gas-fired power plant in Northeast Ohio, blaming the decision on nuclear power subsidies the state will provide to bankrupt subsidiaries of FirstEnergy Corp.
Clean Energy President William Siderewicz told NGI that plans for a $1.1 billion facility in Lordstown, about 15 miles north of Youngstown, are “indeed now dead” after legislation establishing the subsidies became law last month.
The company developed the nearby 940 MW Lordstown Energy Center, a gas-fired facility that entered service late last year. A second plant in the village, the 940 MW Trumbull Energy Center is also still moving forward. Clean Energy began working on plans for a third plant in the area late last year.
However, in July, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed House Bill (HB) 6, which was quickly signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, to provide $150 million over seven years beginning in 2021 as aid for the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants.
Siderewicz said the third plant would have created 1,100 construction jobs during a three-year period. The project was never formally announced, but lawmakers from the region had noted that talks for a third plant were jeopardized at the time HB 6 passed.
The company also filed a permit application with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency in June and said it had been working with grid operator PJM Interconnection. Clean Energy said it has spent more than $1 million on the project that will be written off as a loss.
For more than two years, the natural gas industry fought to stop the subsidies from passing. Abundant, low-cost gas supplies from the Appalachian Basin have made it difficult for nuclear and coal facilities to compete.
Cheap gas supplies have attracted an influx of developers, including Clean Energy, which has built plants across the state. More than $11 billion has been invested by multiple companies to build more than 11,000 MW of gas-fired capacity in Ohio alone. Similar levels of investment have been made in nearby Pennsylvania.
Clean Energy’s announcement follows another from New Jersey-based LS Power, which canceled a $500 million plan to expand its 700 MW dual-fuel Troy Generation Facility in Luckey, OH. LS scrapped its plans to add 500 MW of capacity to the facility shortly after HB 6 was signed into law.
Siderewicz has been an outspoken critic of the nuclear subsides, warning that they would lead to less investment in both renewable energy sources and gas-fired power in the state. He’s involved with efforts to strike down the legislation with a statewide referendum. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, however, recently rejected the ballot initiative because of errors in its proposed summary language, sending organizers Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts back to the drawing board.
The Ohio Independent Power Producers, which represents gas-fired plants, bemoaned Clean Energy’s announcement, noting it comes at a time when the Mahoning Valley, a four-county region that includes Lordstown, needs it the most. Earlier this year, General Motors Co. shut down the Lordstown assembly plant, which for more than 50 years had manufactured vehicles and served as an economic backbone for the region; the closure led to the loss of more than 1,500 jobs.
The 900 MW Davis-Besse and the 1,268 MW Perry nuclear power plants are owned by FirstEnergy Solutions Corp., which filed for bankruptcy last year. The facilities employ more than 1,400 workers.